Q: Earlier this year, I bought two round-trip business-class tickets from St. Louis to Paris for my wife and daughter using Priceline. In May, the company sent an itinerary change, changing everything to coach.
Priceline has given many different explanations, none of which has jibed with the others. First, it blamed the airlines. Only when the company learned that I still have the original emailed confirmation and I assured them that I keep impeccable records did it say this was a “screen error” and I never was booked in business class.
Well, either way, I purchased tickets from Priceline based on what its website showed me: business-class seats at $1,400 each.
A “screen error” doesn’t explain Pricelinesending me confirmations of business-class tickets and then the company having to change the itinerary months later. Can you help?
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A: If Priceline sold you business-class tickets to Paris, it should have delivered them. But hang on: A look at Priceline’s site suggests it didn’t, or shouldn’t, have given you those tickets.
The company’s “Name Your Own Price” feature, which you used to bid on your tickets, clearly says: “All tickets will be issued for Economy class only.” (Here’s the fine print: www.priceline.com/privacypolicy/terms–en.html.)
I checked with Priceline, and it admits it goofed. Or, more specifically, one of its airline partners goofed.
“Due to a display error that occurred during the ongoing American Airlines/US Airways merger work, Mr. Bentele’s confirmation notice inaccurately showed business class, when he was actually bidding on – and got – an economy ticket,” says Brian Ek, a Priceline spokesman. “The error was subsequently corrected.”
This is a little bit like going to a hamburger joint and finding steak on the menu at hamburger prices. When you don’t get your steak, you have every right to be upset. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still at a hamburger stand. Priceline is the hamburger stand.
Priceline offered to refund your tickets, but that didn’t sit well with you, or me. Ultimately, Priceline agreed to pay for your entire flight, albeit in economy class.
Email Christopher Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org.